Wealth of community talent on show at new Highgate gallery

A gallery packed with the work of residents’ has sprung up in Highgate to celebrate the area’s wealth of talent and forge a new community hub.

This is the first exhibition of local artists’ work in the Swains Lane cafe-turned-gallery, now named Larger Picture.

Although it features work only by those living within a two-mile radius, the organisers have been inundated with submissions.

Curator Michele Oke said: “We put up a poster in the shop window and were overwhelmed with the response. It just goes to show what a strong artistic community there is.”

The contributions of 28 residents, who all work in the art world, have created an eclectic collection of landscapes, portraits, cityscapes, photography, illustration, collage, expressionism and pop art.

Work featured includes dark images by the children’s illustrator Ben Parker, selected for Charles Saatchi’s New York show next year, and sketches by Chelsea School of Art lecturer Adrian Neil.

Highgate born and bred, Ms Oke used to run the studio of designer Thomas Heatherwick, who designed the new London Routemaster bus.

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She said: “I’m a local girl from Dartmouth Park. I’ve lived here for 40 years.

“The idea was to bring the locals in and use their ideas to make it a local cultural hub.”

Future plans for the space include weaving lessons, poetry and book readings and film viewings.

“I think Hampstead Heath is a magnet for artists and that explains why there are so many of us,” added Ms Oke, whose paintings evoke the serenity of the beauty spot.

Hampstead and Highgate culture is a strong influence on the exhibition and the window displays a portrait of a 1970s William Ellis choirboy painted by Inger Bassingthwaighte.

Others have drawn inspiration from further afield, including Tamor Kriwaczek, whose abstract landscapes reflect the light and the darkness of the north Cornwall coast, while half-Ugandan Lakwnena Maciver returns to African proverb.

Her bold image, Until the Lion Learns To Speak: The Story Would Always Belong To The Hunter, is a call to arms urging society to reclaim the public space around them and find their own voice.

* The community exhibition at Larger Picture opens every day from 10am to 6pm except Monday until the end of January.